2022 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Nation's Top Prospects Ahead of Super Bowl

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2022

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Nation's Top Prospects Ahead of Super Bowl

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    For now, the football world is focused on the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and Super Bowl LVI. Soon enough, though, the NFL postseason will be over, and the league's collective gaze will shift fully to the 2022 offseason.

    The NFL draft is the marquee event of the offseason. The free-agent and trade markets are obviously big, but the draft carries with it months of preparation. From last week's Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl, to the looming scouting combine and pre-draft visits, there is a substantial buildup to opening night.

    Despite everything that goes into the pre-draft process, there will still be surprises when the draft kicks off on April 28 in Las Vegas. Plenty will change between now and then anyway, but let's take an early look at how things could unfold in Round 1.

    For the second year in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock.

2022 Round 1 Mock

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    Stephen Chernin/Associated Press

    1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

    3. Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

    4. New York Jets: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

    5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

    6. Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    7. New York Giants (from Chicago): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame 

    8. Atlanta Falcons: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

    9. Denver Broncos: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

    10. New York Jets (from Seattle): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU 

    11. Washington Commanders: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

    12. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati 

    13. Cleveland Browns:  Drake London, WR, USC

    14. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

    15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

    16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia 

    17. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    18. New Orleans Saints: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

    19. Philadelphia Eagles: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

    20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

    21. New England Patriots: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

    22. Las Vegas Raiders:  Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    23. Arizona Cardinals: Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State

    24. Dallas Cowboys: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

    25. Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

    26. Tennessee Titans: Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia

    27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

    29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

    30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

    31. Cincinnati Bengals: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

    32. Detroit Lions (from Rams): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The Jaguars will have options at No. 1 overall. They could go with one of the top edge-rushers or add a potential franchise left tackle to protect 2021 first overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

    A lot will depend on how Jacksonville views current left tackle Cam Robinson, who played on the franchise tag in 2021.

    The 26-year-old was solid this past season, allowing just a single sack, according to Pro Football Focus. He was far less reliable the previous two seasons, though, during which he allowed 13 combined sacks.

    If the Jaguars aren't willing to commit to Robinson after only one good season—and they should be wary of doing so—Evan Neal becomes the logical choice at No. 1.

    The fourth-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board and a pro-ready pass-protector, the Alabama product has the potential to man Lawrence's blind side for the next decade or more.

    The Jags should be eager to build around their quarterback, and they should start in the trenches.

2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    If the Jaguars go with Neal, the Detroit Lions will have their pick of pass-rushers, with the top three being Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux, Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Purdue's George Karlaftis.

    With no quarterback prospect currently trending as a top-three selection, picking a pass-rusher is likely the right move for Detroit. Apart from a signal-caller, a premier sack artist can impact the game better than anyone.

    The question for the Lions is which pass-rusher to select. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Jordan Reid, some NFL executives view Hutchinson as the safer prospect. However, Thibodeaux may have the higher ceiling.

    "Explosion and range. ...I would take him. He scares you more," one AFC executive said, per Fowler.

    In this mock, the Lions opt for upside over NFL floor and take the top-ranked prospect on the B/R Board, Thibodeaux.

5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    There's a very good chance the Houston Texans and New York Jets take some combination of Hutchinson and Karlaftis at picks No. 3 and 4, respectively. This leaves the New York Giants with a tough decision to make at No. 5.

    The Giants, which ranked 31st in scoring and 23rd in points allowed this past season, have multiple needs. Fortunately, they also have two picks inside the top seven. Here, they take the other top offensive lineman, NC State's Ikem Ekwonu, and work to protect quarterback Daniel Jones.

    While he doesn't come from a marquee program like Neal, he may be just as promising a prospect—both received 9.0 grades from the B/R Scouting Department. He is also versatile and can slot in virtually wherever New York needs him.

    "He has the versatility to be a longtime impact starter at either tackle or guard in any scheme," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    New Giants head coach Brian Daboll will look to jump-start the offense in 2022. Adding Ekwonu to the line will go a long way toward making that happen.